If a homeschool fairy swooped down one day and told me I could only choose three tools to teach my children, I’d like to think I would not hesitate. I would smile and reply, “Books, nature, and open-ended art supplies.” But my answer is a sneaky one. I firmly believe that, at least in the early grades, you can teach just about every subject with these three things.
These three “teaching tools” inform one another and elevate ideas within each other. The books inspire exploration and wonder in the fields of literature, language, sequencing, society and culture, civics, history, economics, science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. Nature, our first and most significant teacher, supplies ample evidence of these ideas as we ramble and wander out in the world. And open-ended art supplies (everything from sticks to play-dough to beeswax to paint) give us a place to play with these ideas and find our voices within them.
Nature and STEAM education seem especially well-paired for young learners. We are naturally inclined to tinker and experiment as children, with nature’s careful guidance and vivid inspiration. A child may notice the way a fallen log blocks the path of the water in a creek and seek to replicate it on a smaller scale along a shallow bank. Or they may make the happy discovery of a rainbow on their bedroom wall when a glass of water has been left sitting in the window. Add in some beautiful literature to plant seeds of discovery and you have the early learning trifecta: books, nature, and STEAM education.
In our homeschool, I may be a lot of things (Charlotte Mason-inspired, nature-based, and a tad Waldorfish) but a stickler for purity is not one of them. I like to make a lot of space for the inherent magic of childhood. Springtime seems an especially captivating season for dropping the day’s plans in favor of rabbit trails and curiosity. I noticed last spring that reading my daughters Eric Carle and Jim Arnosky books often lead to a week of impromptu insect studies or attempts to replicate the delicate symmetry of butterfly wings on a folded paper plate. Early this spring, we read A Rainbow of My Own and spent nearly two weeks exploring primary and secondary colors, prisms, and optics. It’s a wonderful thing to watch a simple book bring alive so many questions and experiments in the hands of a child.
This spring, I challenge you to honor the gift of inspiration by setting aside carefully scripted plans in favor of literature-led discovery. Grab your favorite spring stories and fill your morning basket. Pack your backpacks for a day outside. Strew art supplies around your home to capture ideas as they crystallize. Infuse your homeschool day with unscripted delight! I promise, when you’re ready, those math worksheets and grammar books will still be there, waiting for you to return. <3
Feel like binge-reading some of our recent nature study posts?
Need a little inspiration to kick off some spring nature-inspired STEAM activities? Our Spring Book Seeds Bundle is now available in our Gumroad store! Hurry and grab them up before our launch prices expire at the end of April! Click here to learn more about our Book Seeds!
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This FREE issue, inspired by the book The Three Sunflowers by Janet Lucy, includes two weeks of activities including nature study, STEAM, art project, recipe, and exploring language and poetry. Suitable for ages 3 - 8. Grab yours today!